“It’s all part of our plan to build the sport and bring the best possible value and experience to our fans, members, anglers and sponsors,” said BASS General Manager Don Rucks. “We’ve looked at this from each of those perspectives and are confident that the changes will be good for everyone concerned. We’re making the announcement now so our anglers will be aware of the qualifying process for the 2006 Classic.”
1998 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion and BASS’ all-time leading money winner Denny Brauer serves on the BASS Athletes Advisory Council and was excited to hear about the new initiatives.
“I think it’s awesome,” Brauer said. “These are changes that we’ve been hoping to see, and it’s great that BASS and ESPN are working to make them happen so fast.”
The expanded Tour season will begin in the weeks following the 2006 Classic and run through September rather than merely the late winter and early spring as in years past. A longer season with more events creates greater opportunity for BASS to increase awareness of the sport and its sponsors. It also means more opportunities for touring professionals to make a living on the demanding CITGO Bassmaster Tour.
“The Tour is the foundation of our tournament trail,” Rucks added. “An 11-event Tour season means that the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be much more meaningful because the anglers will be challenged to the fullest extent.”
“More events means that more anglers will be able to go out and make a living at the sport,” Brauer added. “It’s the right direction to go and will make things bigger and better for everyone.”
Three major stand-alone tournaments will be strategically scheduled throughout the year.
“These majors, named the Bassmaster Memorial, the Bassmaster American and the Bassmaster Legend will showcase the best of the best anglers in bass fishing,” said Dean Kessel, the Vice President of Operations for BASS. “They’re a natural progression from the Elite 50 Series, which we introduced last year, and which has enjoyed tremendous success. The three ‘majors’ allow us to better serve everyone involved and bring attention to the fact that they aren’t just fishing tournaments, they’re terrific outdoors events for the entire family.”
The overriding reason for moving the Classic to its new time of year is to find the very best fishing on the best waters at the best time of year. Late winter and early spring are peak bass fishing times across parts of the country renowned for great catches.
“A late February or early March Classic accomplishes our objective to fish the best waters at the very best times,” said BASS Tournament Director Trip Weldon.
2000 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Tim Horton serves on the BAAC and expressed strong support for the changes announced today.
“I think everything about it is positive,” Horton said. “Kicking off the season with the Classic will be great. That’s a time of year that everyone’s fired up about fishing.”
Five-time Classic qualifier and BAAC member Edwin Evers is already looking forward to the 2006 Classic.
“At that time of year, we should have some really great fishing,” Evers said. “There should be some heavy weights weighed in and some records are going to be shattered. I think all of the Classic records will be in jeopardy!”
With the qualifying criteria for this year’s Elite 50 events and Classic already established, anglers will qualify for the 2006 majors and Classic based upon their performances in 2005.
“This is a transition year for our qualifying process,” explained Rucks. “We’re looking ahead to building the most stable platform for bass fishing’s future. This is a very exciting time for our sport.”
The 2006 Classic field will be comprised of 41 anglers, as follows: - CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year - Top 10 finishers from the 2005 Classic - Top 10 anglers from the 2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 Series - Top 5 anglers from the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship - 6 BASS Federation regional champions (up from 5 qualifiers to reflect addition of one division for 2005 season)
The remainder of the field will be selected from the top-ranked pros on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour. In the event of double qualifiers, BASS will invite the top-ranked anglers from the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Tour points standings who are not otherwise qualified. The 2005 Angler of the Year will be doubly rewarded with an automatic berth in both the 2005 and 2006 Classics.
The fields for the 2006 majors will be comprised as follows:
- Top 10 anglers on the all-time BASS money list
- Top 37 anglers from the CITGO Bassmaster Tour based on a three-year average in Angler of the Year standings
- 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion
- 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion
- 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year
- 2005 Toyota Rookie of the Year
Tournament Restructure for 2006*
Event Event Date TV Date TV Airtime Network
Federation Championship Jan. 14 Jan. 21 10-11am ESPN2
Bassmaster Classic Feb. 24-26 Feb. 24-26
Tour #1 March 4 March 11 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #2 March 18 March 25 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #3 April 1 April 8 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #4 April 22 April 29 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #5 May 6 May 13 10-11am ESPN2
Bassmaster Memorial May 19-21 May 21 7-8 pm ESPN2 (live)
May 27 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #6 June 3 June 10 11:30am ESPN2
Tour #7 June 17 June 24 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #8 July 1 July 8 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #9 July 15 July 22 10-11am ESPN2
Bassmaster American July 28-30 July 30 7-8pm ESPN2 (live)
Aug. 5 7-8pm ESPN2
Tour #10 Aug. 12 Aug. 19 10-11am ESPN2
Bassmaster Legends Aug. 25-27 Aug. 27 7-8pm ESPN2 (live)
Sept. 2 10-11am ESPN2
Tour #11 Sept. 9 Sept. 16 10-11am ESPN2
Busch Shootout Oct. 28 Nov. 4 10-11am ESPN2
Open Championship Nov. 18 Nov. 25 10-11am ESPN2
*Dates and locations to be finalized.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
For more information, contact Ken Duke at (334) 551-2436 or visit www.bassmaster.com.